Sunday, 14 December 2014

Jaggery Banana Crepes

This dessert looks and tastes inspired, but it can be whipped up in a hurry.  I prefer the flavour of jaggery, raw Indian sugar, but brown sugar will also do.  The ingredients are in most pantries, and like I said, it whips up so fast!

This recipe serves four, and takes about fifteen minutes in total to prepare.  It’s a good idea to whip the batter together before dinner, and then cook this dessert just as somebody else is starting the coffee.  By the time the coffee’s ready, dessert will be too.

1tablespoon melted butter
I whisked but then had to strain the lumps out, a hassle!
½ cup water
½ cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole wheat flour

1 tablespoon salted butter
2 heaping tablespoons jaggery powder (or brown sugar)
¼ teaspoon cinnamon powder
3 long bananas (8 inches or so)

1 tablespoon Nutella (optional)
4 scoops best quality vanilla bean ice cream
1 teaspoon cinnamon sugar (optional)
4 large spoonfuls of 1% cottage cheese

Before dinner, put the melted butter, water, milk and vanilla into a blender and buzz a moment to cool the butter.  Add the eggs and buzz again.  Add the flour and buzz quickly, till smooth.  Set aside.

Butter, cinnamon and jaggery melts and cooks fast!
After dinner, put a griddle onto medium high heat.  A few minutes later, put a saucepan onto medium high heat.  Add butter and jaggery or brown sugar to the saucepan, along with cinnamon.  After a few minutes, the butter and sugar will melt together and begin to bubble.  Check the heat of your griddle by tossing a drop of water onto it.  If it sizzles and evaporates, it’s ready. 

Coat bananas in the glaze and heat through.  No overcooking!
Have serving plates waiting on the counter.  Slice bananas into the sugary mixture, and gently stir to coat.  Pour a ladle’s worth of batter onto the griddle.  You can spread it around with the back of a wooden spoon, as you might do for a dosa, or you can tilt the griddle to spread the batter into a circle, about six inches across.  

As soon as it’s set (turns a flat colour with little shine), flip it with a large spatula, and do the other side.  Each crepe takes about a minute.  Place on plate, prettiest side down.
Start the next crepe, and continue.  Stir the bananas from time to time, so they get coated in deliciousness, but not too cooked.  Firm bananas are better than soggy overcooked bananas!

When crepes are all on plates, ladle most of the banana mixture in a line along the centre of each crepe.  Drizzle a bit of the Nutella over the bananas if you want to gild the lily.  Add a scoop of ice cream, or cottage cheese if you’re a Puritan. 
I took a smaller crepe and didn't line up the insides just right.  

Roll each crepe and set the folded pieces facing the plate.  Garnish with the left over banana and a few sprinkles of cinnamon sugar if you like.

Serve and enjoy.  I will confess to whipping up another batch of the banana for breakfast this morning, as I had left over crepe batter.  However, I behaved myself, and ate this with cottage cheese, sigh.  Even so, it tasted pretty decadent! 

Still a pretty good breakfast!

Monday, 8 December 2014

Coconut Crème Brûlée

Coconut Creme Brulee

I adore rice pudding, although I’ve heard that some find it stodgy and boring.  But this one is unlike any other I’ve come across.  It’s neither an English rice pudding nor an Indian kheer, but rather a combo of them both.  It’s made on the stove top like a kheer, but includes an egg, like the English pudding.  The addition of a crunchy brûlée makes it all the more delicious.

This recipe takes about thirty minutes to create, but it should chill for overnight, if possible.  It then requires a closely watched few minutes under a broiler about ten minutes before serving, so organization is required.  This recipe serves four, but could be stretched out to five if you added some kind of fruit, perhaps cherries?

I found the original recipe in Stephanie Eddy’s column in The Globe and Mail, but naturally I have fiddled with it.

1 tablespoon ghee (clarified butter found in Indian grocery aisles)
2 tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut
½ cup basmati rice grains
1 can coconut milk (400 ml)
1 cup whole milk
4 tablespoons vanilla sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
5 green cardamom pods, husked removed and ground to a powder
1 egg yolk
15 pitted cherries (optional)
4 to 5 tablespoons vanilla sugar for the brûlée

In a separate small bowl, whisk the egg yolk, vanilla sugar and vanilla.  (Substitute regular sugar for vanilla sugar if you must.)  Set aside.

In a medium sized pot, fry the dried coconut and cardamom powder in the ghee, on medium high.  When the kitchen fills with an amazing fragrance and the coconut becomes slightly golden, add the raw basmati rice, stirring and fry for another minute or so. 

Add the coconut and regular milks, stirring, and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to simmer, and let cook for fifteen minutes, stirring occasionally.  Once the rice is almost tender, stay with the pot and stir more often till the rice is very tender and soft, about another ten minutes.  Remove from heat.
It will be thick once the tempered egg is cooked in the hot rice,

With whisk in right hand, dribble a spoonful of the hot rice mixture into the egg mix, whisking furiously.  Add another spoonful of hot rice while continuing to whisk, and then a final spoonful of hot rice into the egg, whisking all the while.  By this time the egg will be tempered, so pour the egg and rice mixture back into the main pot, stirring to combine it well.  It will be cooked and fairly thick at this point. 

If you’re stretching this with fruit, place two or three pitted cherries into the bottoms of pretty ramekins.  Ladle enough rice pudding to reach just under the rim.  Cover with saran wrap and chill, over night if possible.

About fifteen minutes before serving, turn broiler onto high and sprinkle about a tablespoon of sugar over the top of each ramekin.  Place ramekins on a cookie sheet and when the broiler is hot, put just under it.  Stay with them, watching carefully.  Within a few minutes the sugar will melt and bubble.  When it gets golden brown, remove from the oven.  Let stand another five minutes so the sugar can re-harden and get crunchy. 

Ooh la lah, is what your guests will say.  Rice pudding might strike some as rather prosaic and tedious, but not this version.  Creamy with coconut, crunchy with the brûlée, fragrant with the cardamom, this dessert is one to serve to your favourite people!

Coconut Creme Brulee
Tasty and it looks gorgeous too!

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Convent Dinner

Convent Dinner aka Bangers and Mash, but so much better!

This oddly named repast is warming, spicy and quick, based on hot Italian sausage, canned tomatos, vegetables and mashed potatoes.  My mother named it after the noon meal served to her as a child when she attended ‘The Little Flower Academy’ if you can believe it.  Because we’re talking almost 100 years ago, I suspect the nun who made this dish relied on her own preserved tomatoes, and probably her sausages were less spicy. 

My father recognized this meal as ‘bangers and mash’, and while I enjoyed my mother’s breakfast link sausage version as a child, I’ve enhanced it with extra vegetables and flavours.  This is ready in well under forty-five minutes, and it will serve four if you have four sausages. 

4 hot Italian sausages (maybe more if you’re really hungry)

4 potatoes, cut into chunks 
4 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon salt
water to just cover potatoes
¼ cup butter
¼ cup milk, or cream (approximately)

1 teaspoon canola oil
1 red onion, diced
10 to 15 mushrooms, sliced
15 grates fresh black pepper
1 teaspoon oregano
4 chili peppers, finely diced (or to taste)
¼ red cabbage, finely sliced
1 can tomatoes, (28 ounce size)

Poke sausages with a fork and grill them, either in a pan under the oven broiler or in a barbecue.  While they’re cooking (about ten minutes on each side) start potatoes.  When the sausages are done, let rest on a cutting board. 
Get these at a big box store or specialty shop.

Put the potatoes, garlic , salt and water into a large scratch proof pot and set on high heat.  Cover, when potatoes start to boil, uncover and bring heat down to medium high.  You want most of the water to boil off.

While the potatoes are cooking, add oil to a non-stick saucepan and place on medium high heat.  Cook onions till translucent and golden at some edges.  Add the mushrooms and cook them till they start to get golden here and there.  Add the black pepper, oregano and chilies and cook for a couple more minutes.  Add the cabbage, and cook for another five, stirring occasionally.  It’s important for these items to caramelise just a bit to get really good flavours. 

While the vegetables are gently cooking, check on the potatoes.  When they are very soft and tender, pour off remaining liquid and turn off heat.  People who like mashed potatoes fall into two categories.  Some like them super smooth, almost like wallpaper paste.  Those types use an electric beater to pulverize them into submission.  I am a texture person.  I leave the peels on and I use a hand masher.
You could skimp on butter, but why?

Either way, add the butter and perhaps a spoonful or two of the potato water if you’re cutting some calories.  Otherwise, add milk or cream, just a bit at a time.  Mash potatoes as you prefer.  Check for taste and consistency, adding a bit more salt or liquid.  Cover while continuing with vegetables and sausages.

Finally, open the tomatoes and carefully pour the liquid into the pan.  Using your fingers deep within the can, gently pry the tomatoes apart.  They will try to squirt, so keep the tomatoes below the top of the can.  The idea is to get them into manageable pieces.  Add to vegetables.

Browning all the veg a bit improves flavour.
When the sausages are cool enough to handle, slice them either into coins or angled pieces.  Add to the tomato mixture to reheat for a few minutes.

Dollop mashed potatoes into a big bowl, ladle tomato mixture over all, being generous with the sausage, and enjoy.  This is comfort food, heavy, yet spicy and full of healthy vegetables.  I like to think those Little Flower Academy nuns are watching down, drooling, and mum’s elbowing them out of the way for her fair share.

Gloriously good, hearty, warming, and reasonably healthy...

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Plan Ahead Cook it Quickly Butter Chicken

Plan Ahead Cook It Quickly Butter Chicken

I hate to call this a quick and easy butter chicken when it requires overnight marinating, and a sauce you need to make beforehand, but how else to sell this delicious recipe?  Normally butter chicken is made in two stages, the creamy sauce is made indoors, and the chicken is grilled outdoors, but who here can afford a $20,000 tandoor oven, and who wants to work over a regular barbecue when it's 20 below zero Fahrenheit?  This method isn't traditional, but it works.

You will need my Emergency Masala Tomato Sauce for this recipe, or a facsimile.  Doctor up a jarred tomato sauce with fried onions and garam masala, and you might be fine.  If you must, you can marinate the chicken in the morning, but the longer you marinate, the better the flavours.

1 cup plain yogurt
2 inch length ginger, coarsely chopped
5 hot chilies, coarsely chopped
5 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
8 skinned chicken pieces (I use thighs but breast is even faster to cook)

1 tablespoon ghee
1 cassia or cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon garam masala
sprinkles of salt
1 tablespoon heavy cream (optional)

Smoked paprika lends important flavours here!
Make the marinade first by putting the yogurt, ginger, chilies, smoked paprika and garlic into a blender and buzz till smooth.  Put the chicken into a glass bowl and pour in the marinade.  Cover and refrigerate overnight, and into the next afternoon if possible. 

About 30 minutes before dinner, heat a large non-stick saucepan on medium high heat.  Add the ghee and cinnamon stick.  Pull one piece of chicken out of the marinade at a time.  Use your fingers or a spatula to leave most of the marinade behind.  Put chicken into the hot ghee one piece at a time, taking care to let each piece get as golden as possible.  Once all are mostly gold, add that marinade and the Emergency Masala Tomato sauce.

Keep on high heat a few minutes till all is boiling, then turn the heat down to medium. 
Cook till the chicken is tender and the sauce is thickened, about thirty minutes.  At the last minute, taste for saltiness and add the garam masala and that heavy cream, if you want an especially silky and luxurious taste.

This is great with basmati rice or even better with chapattis, which take a fare bit more work.  I made it for my bookclub in September, and everyone thought I’d spent the day slaving over a hot stove…

If you have the time to get organized, a little bit of work on a quiet day brings the appearance of a great deal of work on a frantic day.  This delicious meal is well worth that effort on that dull and boring day!  If you haven’t made that sauce yet, quick fooling around on your computer and start cooking!

You can serve this with chapattis, or over basmati rice, garnished prettily.  

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Almond Masala Stew

Almond Masala Stew with a chapatti and a bit of plain yogurt

Are you frantically hungry and wanting something delicious in a big hurry?  Within fifteen minutes you can be munching on this vegan delight, or perhaps vegetarian, if you add a little butter or cream. Spicy, filling and healthy, it will warm you completely on a cold winter’s day.

The only hitch is that the basis of the stew is my Emergency Masala Tomato Sauce, which you really should have in large quantities in your freezer.  Failing that, I suppose you could make a facsimile with a jarred tomato sauce that you doctor up by frying onions and  garam masala, then dumping in the sauce to heat through.  But don't get me started on factory foods...

You can serve this with rice, but start beforehand, because this almond recipe will be done before the rice is cooked.

½ cup almonds
2 cups emergency masala tomato sauce (frozen is ok)
1 bunch of spinach leaves (or a box of frozen) (optional)
1 small splash of water, if needed
1 tablespoon whipping cream or butter (so optional!)

Toasting almonds takes just a couple of minutes.
Toss the almonds into a blender and buzz for about thirty seconds.  A combination of powder and bits will provide the right taste and texture.

Put a non-stick sauce pan on medium high heat.  Add the almonds.  (I later use that almond powder left in the blender for warm almond and cardamom milk, but that’s another recipe.) Using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir the almonds around for a couple of minutes to ensure they get toasty and golden, then add the sauce. 

If the sauce is frozen, keep the heat high, and stir and flip over occasionally to help thaw.  You may want to add a couple of spoons of water if there’s a danger of the almonds burning if the sauce isn’t melting fast enough.  If you’re using frozen spinach, add it while tomato is still frozen.

Keep the tomato sauce boiling till it’s reduced and somewhat thick.  If fresh spinach is desired, add it late in the process to keep it green. Spinach takes less than five minutes to heat through and soften up slightly.  If you’re going to indulge in cream or butter, add just before serving, giving it just time to warm through.

Fifteen minutes later and you’ll be experiencing heaven.  This makes a great breakfast, lunch or light supper.  If you haven’t started a batch of Emergency Masala Tomato Sauce, do it now!  Recipe for butter chicken will be coming along soon, and you’ll need it for that too! 
Another time I omitted the spinach but served it with kerela, curd and a chapatti. Another delicious lunch for me!